US military denies airstrike killed civilians in Afghanistan
The US military has strongly denied that American forces killed civilians in a recent airstrike in the eastern part of Afghanistan.
According to reports, Afghan officials had said at least 16 civilians, including women and children, were killed on Thursday when a private vehicle was struck in Haska Mina district in the eastern province of Nangarhar.
But US Forces-Afghanistan said in a statement on Saturday that the airstrike "killed a number of militants," not civilians.
"The militants were observed loading weapons in to a vehicle and were under surveillance until the vehicle was destroyed by an airstrike," said Bob Purtiman, a spokesman for the American military in Afghanistan.
"The strike was conducted in the middle of open terrain. There was zero chance of civilian casualties,” Purtiman added. "This was the second false claim of civilian casualties in the same district in the last three weeks.”
The United States currently has about 8,400 soldiers in Afghanistan with another 5,000 troops from NATO allies.
Civilian casualties caused by NATO forces have been one of the most contentious issues in the close to 16-year military campaign in Afghanistan, prompting strong government and public criticism.
In June, at least three Afghan border police officers were killed in US airstrikes in Helmand province. Back in February, American airstrikes also killed 22 civilians in the same province.